A few weeks ago, I came across the perfect book to inspire new behavior. It’s called Linchpin by Seth Godin. Godin is a motivational guru and book writer who writes about living up to one’s potential at a job. But Linchpin is about more than succeeding in business, it’s actually about succeeding as an artist.
For Godin, the word “artist” is synonymous with the word “linchpin.” He believes that in our highly competitive, fast-changing world you have to be a creative, problem-solving spirit who takes initiative and believes in your project. That’s how you stand out and become successful.
Linchpins Exist in Any Setting
What’s interesting about his premise is he doesn’t necessarily see a relation between the kind of work you do and being a linchpin. He doesn’t believe you need to quit a job that makes you unhappy in order to achieve your full potential. In fact, he believes the exact opposite. you can bring your creative artist to any workplace. If you apply the principles of the artist to your work situation, you will certainly be happier. You may even find a new more fulfilling position.
The chapter that really affected me though was about The Resistance. Godin says we don’t all become linchpins. This is because we all have a primitive mechanism in our brain that craves safety and fears risk. It also resists discomfort. We take the easier way out, whether it’s physical (like exercising) or psychological (like trying something new) because the survival instinct in us, or what Godin calls the “lizard brain,” sabotages our creative, vital spirit at every turn.
Your lizard brain … is working overtime to get you to shut up, sit down, and do your (day) job. It will invent stories, illnesses, emergencies, and distractions in order to keep the genius bottled up. The resistance is afraid. Afraid of what will happen to you (and to it) if the ideas get out, if your gifts are received, if the magic happens.
The way, Godin says, to quiet the lizard brain is to do the opposite of what it wants: seek out discomfort. He talks about how successful people don’t worry about failure, they learn from it to do better on the next attempt. In an office situation, this means to put forth your ideas knowing they might be rejected. For an artist, it means sending your work out to the world even though it may be rejected.
He also discusses how insidious and wily the resistance is. It’s in procrastination, it’s in yearning for acceptance, it’s in self- and outward criticism, rationalization, and on and on. It’s also in the roadblocks we create for ourselves. So to be vigilant against it is the first step.
Godin also offers a list of how to neutralize the resistance when it’s acting up. It involves brainstorming, planning, getting help, believing in the project, and most importantly, finishing. It’s obvious that once you start practicing his advice, the fear at the root of resistance will lessen, which will open up one’s capacity to accomplish more. I was already inspired to tie up some loose ends related to my own creative projects.
Becoming a Linchpin
I realize that what Godin is saying is more easily said than done. Plus, a wealthy business guru is saying it. But his words are good ones to remember. They gave me license to start this blog and move through the anxiety I had about starting it. It also inspired me to submit more of my creative work to the world, which has had some positive results. By doing all of this, I’m not giving in to the cycle of pain and fear. I’m not resisting. I’m producing at least something every day, I’m believing in myself, and those are the babysteps I’m taking toward being a linchpin.